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The Soiree by Jean Beraud 1880

The Soiree by Jean Beraud 1880

How does one arrive on the scene? The social scene, that is? Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt, skewed the rules of society during her day. I have taken notes and shall use these as a guideline when my turn arrives.

How to Get Into Society

  1. Study abroad, preferably in France, Italy, or England. At the very least, travel widely; become associated with High Culture
  2. Marry well and by well I mean marry wealthy. Money will allow one to get a foot in the door, but pugilism masquerading as class will sustain a position in Society.
  3. Be impervious to insults. Know your ambition is deserved and shall be acquired.
  4. Amass a stunning art collection. Originals of the Masters are always preferred but contemporary art and commissions can be just as impressive. Select wisely as investments. From paintings, sculptures, furniture, textiles; nothing is off-limits.
  5. Timing is of the utmost importance. Marry, produce your heirs, be a wife, and bid your time. Wait at two to ten years or until previous generation passes on; whichever comes first. Research the mechanisms of your current community and Society. Discover who is in the circle, what they do, why they do what they do, when do they act and how they do it all.
  6. Next, construct your dream house. The larger the home, the more attention it will attract. Similarly, the less it resembles the nearby structures, the better.
  7. Throw the most lavish party the community has ever seen.
  8. Schedule it on a day right after a somber event or better yet on a day when the top-tier person in your community is hosting his or her regular small gathering of elitist peers.
  9. Invite all those important to Society and your own close friends if they are in different circles. A mere 1,000 invitations will do. Give ample time for participants to commission their costumes or gowns for the evening, but make sure your own outfit will be the most discussed ensemble of the night.
  10. Include the press. Send the press sample menus or the very menu that will be used that night, the various kinds of flora that will cover the home, and only verbal detail of your own ceremonial gown.
  11. The crucial point is to not submit an invitation to your rival. He or she has not properly introduced herself and acknowledged your presence. It would be forward and abhorrent for you to introduce yourself to such a person above your rung on the social ladder.
  12. Feel free to use the children as leverage. If your rivals heirs believe themselves expected at the ball, convey your surprise to trusted sources of said rival; “How could the children attend the ball when the mother and father have not officially recognized you and your spouse’s existence???”–Then wait for your rival to call upon you for the sake of her children’s happiness. After which, you would be more than delighted to deliver an invitation to your rival to your own gala.

Such was the playbook of Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt to Mrs. Caroline Astor. What resulted is forever known as The Great Vanderbilt Ball on March 26th 1883. I shall not go into details of the gala since snippets are found all over the internet with stunning pictures and grave details, but it is worth the gander. I have to wonder, will a similar scheme work in modern times???